Beauty and Shanghai water








In my industry, we form a very close connection with our clients and they feel comfortable discussing their concerns with us. There are a few recurring questions that come up on a daily basis, and which require some attention 


Why since arriving to Shanghai is my hair and skin very dry?

Why have I begun to loose hair?

Why do I have skin irritation, redness, and an itchy scalp?

Why has my hair color changed?


Living in Shanghai now for 7 years, I have also struggled with the above issues and so I decided that these questions deserved to be addressed in a thoughtful and well researched manner. Firstly, I wanted to understand what was causing these changes. Secondly, I wanted to find out if there was any way to repair and perhaps even reverse the damage once it was done.

To begin I would like to address the question of why so many of us are experiencing these changes. It all comes down to one simple thing. It’s the WATER! We use it everyday, to shower, bathe our children, remove dirt from our food, and some individuals even choose to boil the water and then use it for drinking. A simple thing many of us took for granted in our home countries when truthfully, few of us have any clue where our water is sourced and what it contains. 

Working in the beauty industry, not only did I have a natural curiosity, but I also felt a responsibility to educate myself on the quality of our water and how it was affecting us in the long term. I felt this way even more strongly after March 2013 when thousands of dead pigs were discovered in Shanghai’s water supply. “The area of Zhejiang province, 60 miles from Shanghai, has become the subject of public and media scrutiny after more than 16,000 dead pigs were found in tributaries of the city’s river, the Huangpu, a source of tapwater” reported The Guardian, a British daily newspaper. Independent testing of Shanghai water supplies has since revealed that the water contains many unwanted chemicals.

 According to Lise Giraud, Indoor Environmental Consultant for Greenwave, “ Shanghai Water is similar to swimming pool water; both have high a concentration of chlorine which can damage your hair and skin conditions in the long term. Indeed, in order to kill bacteria and avoid germ proliferation, Chinese authorities keep the level of chlorine really high for safety reasons. By sterilizing the water, chlorine has the unwanted effect of harming skin, eyes and hair, provoking dry-skin, hair loses and irritation.” Chlorine is a highly efficient disinfectant and is added to public water supplies to kill disease-causing pathogens.

While conducting my independent research, I was fortunate to have a client who worked for Pureliving, and who was knowledgeable about the water filter industry. During our conversations I realized that one of the most effective ways we ccan minimize damage to our bodies while living in Shanghai is to purchase a water filter. According to Karen Miyanaga, Residential Manager of PureLiving, water filters are essential not just for our drinking water, but also for our showers, to minimize damage to skin, hair, lungs, and liver. According to my contact at Pureliving, there are a number of potential pollutants and contaminants that are found in Shanghai tap water:


General sediment and rust

Bacteria and microbes (Giardia and Cryptosporidium)

Chlorine and Chlorine byproducts like Trihalomethane-THM

Nitrates (pesticides, herbicides)

Heavy metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper)


She also explained to me that when researching a water filtration company it is important to ensure they are  NSF certified and are part of The Water Quality Association’s Gold Seal Certification Program. According to Karen Miyanaga, Residential Manager of PureLiving, “NSF Certification is recognized by regulatory agencies at the local, state, federal, and international level. NSF certification demonstrates that a product complies with all standard requirements. NSF’s programs include testing and certifying drinking water treatment products and water filters.” Before you purchase a water filter, it is really important to check that the filter is replaceable and verify how often it must be changed. Ask if the company has filters that are easily accessible so users can check when the filter need replacement. It is a financial investment to purchase this type of system, but one that will undoubtedly benefit our health long term.

After purchasing a water filter to reduce the risk of damage to the hair, there are also steps a person can take to repair the damage that has already been done. It is important to repair, nourish and strengthen the hair from the inside out. Purchase sulphate free shampoos and conditioners only. Most common shampoos and conditioners are made of sulfates which contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or Ammonium Laureth Sulphate.These sulfates strip away our natural essential oils that we need to protect our hair and skin, and cause irritation. The second step is to invest in keratin treatments every couple of months. Keratin provides moisture to hair and makes it easier to comb, prevents frizz and breakage, and leaves hair feeling soft and supple. Keratin treatments act as a temporary straightening process that transforms unruly, dry hair into straight, shiny, healthy hair. One method is using a high-temp flat iron, then the keratin treatment is infused into hair, sealing the cuticle and repairing damaged hair. The hair then becomes much stronger, smoother and more manageable. Ask your salon to provide background information on the types of keratin treatments they offer and what kind is best for your hair type.

While it can be difficult to experience hair changes there is hope. By visiting a reputable salon, investing in water filters, and using sulfate free products and keratin treatments, it is possible to minimize the damage and improve the quality of hair over the long term. I look forward to chatting with you again in July when we will discuss the prevention of skin damage and how to improve skin quality while living in Shanghai!


Gillian is the owner and artistic director at GillianAtAlize, an international hair salon and spa in the heart of Shanghai. Voted one of the top 5 hair salons in Shanghai, Gillian and her team use imported products to provide top quality care for your hair and body. For further info, please see their website